Dorian Komanoff Bandy joins Schulich faculty

Baroque violinist, conductor, and musicologist will hold positions in the School's performance and research departments

As of August 1, 2019, Dorian Komanoff Bandy joined the Schulich School of Music faculty in a position in historical performance practice and musicology, held jointly between the School's departments of Performance and Music Research. Over the course of his career, Prof. Bandy has become recognized as an accomplished multi-instrumentalist (playing early violins and keyboards), conductor, musicologist, and educator. He previously taught at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the Norwegian Music Academy, and he holds a PhD on ornamentation and embellishment in Mozart. With such a diverse range of accomplishments under his belt, we look forward to having Prof. Bandy be a part of Schulich's dynamic faculty.

In advance of the upcoming semester, we spoke to Prof. Bandy over email to discuss his upcoming work at Schulich, love for Mozart, and more.

What courses will you be teaching in the upcoming school year?

I’ll be spending equal amounts of time in the performance and research departments. In the former, I’ll teach baroque violin and chamber music. I’ll also direct two baroque orchestra performances, including a program of suites and concertos from 17th- and early 18th-century Germany.

In the research department, I’ll lead two graduate seminars. One will cover research methods, and the other will examine the philosophical problems surrounding historical performance. Many people associate historical performance with a way of playing music, but it's also a fascinating intellectual arena, dealing with controversial topics including “authenticity,” composers’ intentions, the nature and limits of historical evidence, and the tension between oral- and text-based traditions.

What do you hope to bring to Schulich as a faculty member?

Schulich is unique in being both a leading conservatory and a first-rate research institution. I’m delighted to be joining the community, and it's difficult to say just what I’ll contribute to an environment that is already so vibrant and multifaceted. One thing I certainly plan to bring is an advocacy for historical performance even among “modern” players. You don’t need to use gut strings in order to learn from the historical sources. I’ll also bring my various musical obsessions: an interest in early German chamber works, a particular way of thinking about Mozart and Beethoven, certain technical approaches to instrumental playing and teaching…the list could go on! Most of all, I hope to serve as a role model for the students who, like me, pursue both performance and academic research — two full-time occupations whose competing demands aren’t always easy to reconcile. Whether by example or through more explicit mentoring, I look forward to guiding others who want to bring different facets of their musical career into more satisfying alignment.

How did your fascination with the works of Mozart begin?

It sounds like a cliché, but I’ve been in love with Mozart my whole life. Having grown up in a musical family, I was surrounded by Mozart from the beginning. In particular his sonatas, concertos, and operas have always been on my music stand.

As my interests became more analytical over the years, I set out to understand why I was so fascinated by Mozart. The explanation keeps changing, but I currently think it’s bound up with his ability to craft musical characters who are both autonomous and psychologically rich. This is perhaps most obvious in the operas: has any other composer, with the possible exception of Stephen Sondheim, created a figure as tragically ambivalent as Fiordiligi? But the same skills underpin Mozart's instrumental music as well, for instance in the soloist-orchestra relations of the concerti, the social interplay of the string quartets, or the chromatic shadings and plot-like unfolding of his melodies.

How did you become inspired to pursue the study of historical performance so avidly?

I remember encountering Christopher Hogwood’s recording of Water Music when I was 11 or 12, and being utterly seduced by both the sound of the instruments and the ebullience of the performances. I then listened to his recording of Messiah, and I was hooked: I knew I had to play this music on period instruments!

But as I later discovered, period instruments are merely “hardware”, not “software.” Their use guarantees neither expressive depth nor historical veracity. When I began to experiment with the baroque violin, I still sounded like a modern player, and for a long time this didn’t change. In other words, it’s possible to gather all the right equipment but still play in an uninformed way. My real answer, therefore, is that it was this revelation — of how little the instruments alone mattered — that sparked my fascination with the historical nitty-gritty.

Photo: Chris Davies

What do you love most about performing on the baroque violin?

What I love most isn’t the violin itself, but the extraordinary body of repertoire it has inspired. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas, pretty much all of Biber, the string chamber works of Becker, Buxtehude and Bruhns, the string trios and violin sonatas by Beethoven…it’s a privilege to interact regularly with this music, and that’s without even leaving the B’s!

The baroque violin isn’t the only instrument I play, and at times it hasn't even been the main one. I also perform regularly on the viola d’amore and various historical keyboards, and each appeals to me for different reasons. The fortepiano and harpsichord have been particularly important in my career as a conductor. I’ve always loved directing orchestras from keyboard, both because it’s fun to join the “rhythm and bass” section, and because in opera I get to play recitatives and thus participate in the onstage drama. Playing Mozart on the fortepiano is also central to my scholarly work on the intersections of his instrumental technique and compositional structures.